Sunday, September 21, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Penn State's Hodges to return for senior year, Still to play Monday

Penn State weakside linebacker Gerald Hodges, a junior All-Big Ten selection, said Saturday that he recently decided that he would forego entering his name into the NFL Draft and return to Penn State for his senior season.

Penn State's Hodges to return for senior year, Still to play Monday

Penn State weakside linebacker Gerald Hodges, a junior All-Big Ten selection, said Saturday that he recently decided that he would forego entering his name into the NFL Draft and return to Penn State for his senior season.

“Not a chance at all," Hodges said when asked if he was leaving. "I just talked it over with my parents when I went home for Christmas break, so I’m definitely staying."

Hodges will conclude his first full season as a starter in Monday’s TicketCity Bowl against Houston at the Cotton Bowl. The former Paulsboro High School standout in football and wrestling was one of the top performers on a Penn State defense that allowed just 15.67 points per game and 300.92 yards per game, statistics that rank fifth and 10th in the nation, respectively.

The 6-foot-2, 234-pound former safety led the Nittany Lions with 97 tackles and also tallied 4.5 sacks, forced two fumbles and intercepted a pass that he returned 63 yards.

From the middle of the season until that day over the holiday break, Hodges had discussed with his family the prospects of entering the NFL Draft. He said he and his family prayed about a decision that was at times “frustrating” to think about.

But even with the uncertainty surrounding the future of the Penn State football program and its next head coach, and even though he’s still awaiting the opinion of the NFL Draft Advisory Board, Hodges is committed to returning for another go-around.

Even if, by an outside chance, the advisory board pegged him as a first-round pick in April’s draft?

“Even if they did,” Hodges said.

Still insists he will play Monday

Despite missing the final two practices with a turf toe injury to his left foot, senior defensive tackle Devon Still said he will “without a doubt” play in Monday’s TicketCity Bowl against Houston. Still, the Big Ten defensive player of the year, will play with a metal plate inside his cleat.

“Just being a defensive lineman, you have to push off your toes a lot,” Still said. “Before I got turf toe, I thought turf toe was a soft injury that didn’t really bother you. Now that I’m experiencing it, I understand that it’s a very painful injury.”

Still also talked about Houston quarterback Case Keenum, who het met at a recent college football awards banquet in Orlando, Fla. Still said Keenum was a "real cool dude," but they didn't talk much about the upcoming bowl game.

On Friday, Keenum joked that he would "probably get to know (Still) a little bit better on Monday."

"Yeah, I'm hoping so," Still said with a smile on Saturday. "I'm hoping I get to know him on a personal level."

More notes from Saturday

-Sophomore running back Silas Redd, who battled a bruised collarbone injury late in the season, said he is back to 100 percent and is ready to go for Monday's game. Left tackle Quinn Barham said he actually thinks Redd looks faster now than he did before the season.

-Saturday's practice was the last of the season and per tradition, Penn State's players swapped jerseys with one another. Redd wore Still's No. 71, which Still (6-foot-5, 310 pounds) said looked like a dress on the 5-foot-10, 209-pound back. Left tackle Chima Okoli wore No. 1, which belongs to quarterback Rob Bolden, and goofed around under center.

--Jake Kaplan

About this blog
Joe Juliano has been a staff writer for The Inquirer for 20 years, covering college sports, golf and the Penn Relays.

Joining Joe this season will be John Stuetz, an intern for The Inquirer and senior at Penn State majoring in print journalism and marketing. This is John's third season covering the Penn State beat. He previously covered the Nittany Lions for the Daily Collegian, the university's student newspaper. A native of Glenside, Montgomery County, John graduated from Cheltenham High School.

For Joe, this will be his fifth season on the paper's Penn State beat. He previously covered the Nittany Lions for United Press International from 1976 to 1984.

Reach Joe at jjuliano@phillynews.com.

Joe Juliano Inquirer Staff Writer
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